Pillar by Amy Barnes

I wear my wedding dress every day. 

Mama filled me each day, carefully to the top using her special funnel. I slept on a glass shelf. As my lot in life, I didn’t mind but when I got married, things changed. 

“You’re his responsibility now,” Mama said.

It wasn’t the perfect pairing. I knew as we recited our vows. He insisted on wearing his gnome outfit, blue hat drooping over a long white beard. I cried tears that stuck to my face. Pink Himalyan salt and pink peppercorns rained down as we left the church. 

***

At home on our wedding night, my dress flaked bits over the threshold. 

I was surprised when he picked me up.

“For luck,” he said, tossing me over a shoulder.

He dropped me in the dining room curio cabinet.

Clink

He surveyed me like a prize but didn’t join me on the shelf. I stood among the vases, chocolate pot, tea cups, saucers and four baby salt-and-pepper sets from our registry. 

My hair was drawn into a topknot neatly covering the pinholes dotting my head. Nearly, but not enough because he couldn’t resist exploring. 

Poke. Poke. 

It seemed he found special glee as his fingers dug into my head without asking. 

When I resisted, he left me to tend the crying baby gifts. I became an instant mother to porcelain dinosaurs, red cars, rosebuds and cacti. Pulling out the funnel mama shoved in my pocket, I fed them until they slept. 

***

In that first year, mornings became harder for me little by little. Exhausted from sleeping standing up, I felt stiff at dawn. I slathered on makeup, trying to hide the grazing crackling across my face. I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t beautiful anymore. 

“How do you cover the cracks,” I asked my clown duo roommates.

They stared but didn’t tell me their secrets, even as we shared the shelf.

***

The weather dictated my activities as I feared melting or turning into a solid block. I relied on the news about winds, rain, heat indices and blizzards. 

“We’re in for rain and when it rains, it pours,” Wally the Weatherman chirped. 

Wally was always wrong in his typical cartoon weatherman world. When he called for sunlight, I spun my blue umbrella against alabaster hands, anticipating a drenching. I licked fingers post-unforecasted-rain and felt my tongue seize. Sometimes, my footprints burned snow drift holes.  

When I shook myself out at day’s end, my sunny-yellow raincoat cuffs snowed white bits, at first only a little and then a steady stream falling into soups and onto potatoes. I ate the soup and potatoes as my heart twisted into a faster-than-normal rhythm for someone as young and paired as I. 

***

At the one-year mark, my husband stopped noticing me on the shelf. One day, he left me there and I tapped at the glass with my head all day. No one heard me. My companions and babies stood silent sentinels, content to be jailed. 

Our soup that night was bland but I still made it, served it with the ladle-pillow I slept on. I knew something needed to change. My heart felt like it was hardening against him; it rattled when I served dinner or breathed. 

***

At the advice of our marriage counselor, we tried running together and must have looked like a silly pair. Him, red robe flying. Me, wedding dress trailing behind. 

Thud. Thud. 

Faster and faster, my heartbeat followed, leaving me huffing and puffing behind my oblivious husband. 

He occasionally still kissed me in that first year. By our first anniversary, he slept in the garden and I heard him carousing with the outdoor gnomes all night.

***

Everyone at the Pepper Pot Restaurant, where I filled shakers, assumed I was a firm hand-shaker and over-seasoner. 

“Alice, maybe some hand cream?” 

They asked when their hands came away sandpapered by mine, offering me rose-scented lotions from purses and pockets. I wondered if they’d miss me if I stopped serving salinated water.

***

My husband died first, before we reconciled or celebrated a second anniversary. It was a garden-variety, in-the-garden heart attack. I found his ceramic gnome self, hollowed by a gale-force wind Wally missed that morning. 

At home after the funeral, I took my after-dinner shelf place like he still dictated our routines, sleeping eyes open. No one filled me and dust circles grew around my feet. A 50% off price tag was string-tied around my neck and I waited for estate sale shoppers to buy only half a pair. 

Amy Barnes has words at a variety of sites including The New Southern Fugitives, FlashBack Fiction, Popshot Quarterly, Flash Fiction Magazine, X-Ray Lit, Anti-Heroin Chic, Museum of Americana, Penny Fiction, Elephants Never, Re-side, The Molotov Cocktail, Lucent Dreaming, Lunate Fiction, Rejection Lit, Perhappened, Cabinet of Heed, Spartan Lit, National Flash Flood Day and others. Her work has been long-listed at Reflex Press, Bath Flash Fiction, Retreat West and TSS Publishing. She volunteers at Fractured Lit, CRAFT, Taco Bell Quarterly, Retreat West, NFFD and Narratively.

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